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Eggers 'circles' the threat of social media

Book Review

By Eamonn Walsh
On April 1, 2014

In Dave Eggers' new dystopian thriller, "The Circle," Big Brother isn't the one watching you; it's everyone else. In "The Circle," we follow the company's newest employee, Mae Holland, as she ingratiates herself into the cult-like society on the conglomeration's campus and eventually makes her way deep into the inner-workings of the company's heart.

Mae came to the Circle because of her college roommate, Annie. Mae had been working in a dead-end job in her hometown before she joined the Circle under Annie's tutelage and began working at "the only company that really mattered at all." The Circle has been the world's leader in technology and innovation for around a decade. Imagine the Circle as part Facebook, part Google and part Apple all rolled up into one and placed spectacularly on a picturesque piece of Silicon Valley land.

A lot is demanded of Mae when she joins. She is given three desktop screens, a tablet and a smartphone to complete her work in customer experience. The screens handle customer questions, company news and, finally, social media.

Eggers makes a satire out of the social media used at the Circle. Instead of a distraction, Eggers makes social media a requirement for employees at the Circle. Mae is necessitated to view a certain amount of pages and post a certain amount on the company's Facebookian model or receive a reprimand from her higher-ups.

Eventually, Mae, through positive and negative occurrences, receives notoriety at the Circle. The fame leads this chilling novel to its unexpected conclusion. Along the way, Mae comes into contact with a few suitors (one of whom possesses an earthquake-caliber secret) and the new technologies the company is inventing. Mae sees wireless cameras, called SeeChange, that can wirelessly transmit video from anywhere in the world; microchips, labeled ChildTrack, that are inserted into children to prevent kidnappings; PastPerfect, a program that compiles every document related to a user's past and ancestors; and a futuristic submersible, capable of exploring the Mariana Trench's deepest valleys and bringing forth into the light, new species for research.

There is an underlying pattern here (other than the erasure of spaces between words): the Circle is attempting to bring everything to life, embodied in their company slogan, "ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN." This mindset evokes images of an Orwellian future where all humans are monitored and everyone's lives are transparent.

Egger's fourth full-length novel begs the reader to look around them and see the amount of connectivity required for functionality in day-to-day life.

In sparse prose that sounds at times clipped and at others poetic, (Eggers describes pillowcases as "so white and crisp they crackled when touched" and a young worker's skin as "glowing like lacquered wood") Eggers draws the plot forward, immersing the reader deeper and deeper into the plot until it is finished and the reader looks up, out the window and tries to discern if they are, in fact, being monitored.


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